Designers Mind Launches Health And Wellbeing Programme Designers Mind Launches Health And Wellbeing Programme
Designers Mind is a community where designers can share knowledge and experience to raise awareness around mental health and wellbeing.  A once taboo topic,... Designers Mind Launches Health And Wellbeing Programme

Designers Mind is a community where designers can share knowledge and experience to raise awareness around mental health and wellbeing.  A once taboo topic, mental health initiatives are increasingly gaining publicity and as a result, discussion is no longer shameful.

The design industry is a very stressful environment often marked by designers who work incredibly long hours to meet tight deadlines.  The pressure to be ‘on’ and creative is high, and expectations from leadership, clients and personal ambitions feed into the pressure and daily stress designers need to deal with.  When working under this pressure, often the simplest of wellbeing principles get overlooked.  By focusing on better mental health and wellbeing, Designers Mind supports the industry to create better and more productive designers and workplaces for designers to thrive.

A member of the Designers Mind Team Kael Gillam, is an architectural lighting designer at Nulty+ with a background in theatre and a thirst for tackling the difficult things in life.  Through her sporadic psychology study and her own first-hand experiences with talk therapy, Kael wants to broaden people’s minds and teach them to be more attuned to their environment, their emotions, and their bodies. Trends in Lighting caught up with her to ask more about this excellent initiative.

TiL: How to you think the lighting industry is adapting to mental health awareness?

KG: I think that as a community, we are getting more and more vocal about what wellbeing means to us. And it’s not all coming from the bottom up; some companies in the industry have gone to a four day work week, others are implementing total email shut-downs after working hours. We also work on a lot of projects for high-profile businesses who are stressing the importance of work/life balance, and creating a physical work environment that is more attuned to people’s needs. It’s obviously an easier-said-than-done mindset change, but so far the strides people have taken are making big waves.

TiL: What advice would you give to somebody starting out in the industry?

KG: Learn early on what your boundaries are, and stick to them. Your mentors grew up in a very different environment to you; they did not have their emails or shared project folders nicely tucked into their pockets at all hours of the day. Your job is not 24/7 and you shouldn’t let it control your life; you need to put in the work, but not at the cost of your health.

TiL: How do you think the discussion around mental health has changed over the past few years?

KG: I’ve actually seen two really different sides to this, as my perspective from the US is pretty skewed. Everyone I knew as a teenager and young adult has gone to therapy and made jokes about some of the really raw stuff that they would discuss. Moving to the UK, people would cringe when I mentioned that I went to talk therapy and the conversations would dramatically shift away. I think there’s still a lot of stigma here about who needs therapy; the common opinion seems to be that only really desperate/crazy/sick people need therapy. And that’s simply not true.

TiL: What would you say to someone who is struggling on a project right now?

KG: Take a moment to figure out why it is that you’re struggling. Is your client having a bad day? Are your deadlines unreasonable? Is your colleague sick and you can’t manage both of your workloads? Try and remember that you are responsible for the way that you react to stress, and that you are responsible for how to manage you. No one can help you if you don’t ask for help, and nothing will improve if you don’t actively implement change.

TiL: What can organisations to do support their teams?

KG: Learning how to listen better is a surprisingly effective way of strengthening teams. One of the biggest takeaways from the studies I’ve read is that mental health policies need to be proactive, rather than reactive. If employees feel comfortable talking to their managers before they are at their breaking point, then we can avoid crises. If managers are trained to understand interpersonal relationships and see the signs of stress manifesting in their teams, then they can effectively reorganize tasks and reduce pressure on vulnerable employees. If we can all learn to express ourselves and listen more effectively, then we all benefit. Of course there’s plenty more than can be done—offering private healthcare with counselling included, providing flexible working hours, etc—but none of that can get achieved effectively until good communication is established.

Kael is currently working on strategies for smaller design firms to adapt Wellbeing policies alongside her design role at Nulty+ in London.

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